It is very sad indeed to note the death of Howard Davies. His recent productions of O’Casey plays were very successful indeed and as Rufus Norris, Artistic Director of the National Theatre says, “His work, particularly on the American, Russian and Irish canons, was unparalleled. His reputation among actors, writers, directors and designers alike was beyond question, and has been for so long that his name has become a byword for quality and depth.”
Howard won Olivier Awards three times for The White Guard, The Iceman Cometh, and All My Sons and was nominated a further three times. He took several productions from the UK to successful runs on Broadway and mounted several productions in New York. He was also integral in the founding of the Warehouse Theatre that went on to become the Donmar Warehouse.
Playwright Elizabeth Kuti examines The Silver Tassie as part of the BBC Radio 3 Minds at War series. She looks at how the second act works to question the meaning of the war and how the final act places the meaninglessness of the war and its consequences back into the lives of the soldiers and their families.
Kuti goes on to put the play in context in Sean’s life looking at the rejection from W.B. Yates and support from G.B. Shaw as well as how the play fits in the context of other war plays including Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, Joan Littlewood’s Oh What a Lovely War! and Sarah Kane’s Blasted.
Best Supporting Actress, Amy McAllister (Minnie Powell)
Best Costume Design, Sarah Bacon
Best Set Design, Sarah Bacon
It is lovely to see this production recognised. The whole field of nominees is very strong pointing to a good year in dramatic arts. It is also good to see the Waking The Feminists movement recognised in a Judges’ special award for Lian Bell.
The manuscript includes a handwritten draft of acts one and two of Juno and the Paycock, sections of act three, a list of characters and a synopsis of the play. The draft is in a school notebook, titled ‘Juno and the Peacock’ on the front cover.
Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland, said of the acquisition,
“We are delighted that this unique manuscript is now safely homed in the National Library. It represents a very significant addition to the NLI’s O’Casey collections, joining a substantial holding of O’Casey papers and his personal library, writing desk and other artefacts that really tell the story of this outstanding Irish playwright… This beautiful piece of Irish history and literature is as relevant for Irish actors and audiences today as it was in 1923”
We are sad to note the death of actor Frank Finlay. He died peacefully at home surrounded by his family after a short illness.
He was a stalwart of the early years of the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier and also played in some excellent productions at the Old Vic, including playing Joxer to Colin Blakely’s Captain Boyle in Juno and the Paycock.
Finlay is best known for his television and film work including the title role in Dennis Potter’s Casanova.
Library director Dr Sandra Collins said the library looked forward to “reserving this precious piece of Irish history and literature and exhibiting it in the library for all to enjoy”. This is wonderful news. It is gratifying that this manuscript should return to Ireland.
The first draft is significant in that it shows how the play evolved and what Sean’s early thoughts on the play were. The title on the exercise book is Juno and the Peacock. The National Library of Ireland already holds a significant number of manuscripts and correspondence by and on Sean. This first draft is a wonderful addition to that resource.
The death of Brian Friel is a great loss to the theatre. His contribution to the medium throughout the world and in Ireland in particular was immense. From Philadelphia, Here I Come! in the 60s through to The Home Place in 2005 his work made a significant impact.
In addition to his own original work he was a highly skilled adapter of plays, particularly of great Russian drama. His last work was an adaption of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Friel made great strides in bringing wonderful work to a modern English-speaking audience.
In 1980 collaborating with actor Stephen Rea he founded Field Day Theatre Company. Field Day have played an important cultural role in Derry and throughout Ireland.
You can read more on Brian Friel in these obituaries,
Michael Billington in his Guardian review points out the parallels between the two works. Both plays use an examination of family to make, “attack[s] on the destructive consequences of war”. While The Silver Tassie takes you to the battlefield For Services Rendered remains inside the family dynamic.
First performed in 1932 in the West End the play was not well received as its anti-war message was not popular at the time. The work received a handful of revivals, including a TV version by Granada in 1959. Howard Davies production is now bringing this play and its message back to the British stage.